Photo for Sustainability Research of Wallace & Safferman

Building a sustainable economy requires expanded research in water, land, and air quality assessment and maintenance; we have a very strong group in environmental engineering. As our society wrestles with the problem of replacing its heavy use of fossil fuels with newer plant-based technologies, our biotechnology research effort is poised to expand in a collaborative role.

In the News

Robofish gets a new mission: finding Nemo (MSU Today)

"Think about the GPS in your smartphone, which tracks your movement,” said Xiaobo Tan, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering who is heading up the project. “Basically the robots will form an equivalent of a GPS satellite network underwater, to localize and follow tagged fish in their vicinity."

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New Fulbright ScholarNew Fulbright Scholar Volodymyr Tarabara is collaborating to protect the water supply in the Republic of Georgia.

Collaborating to protect the water supply in the Republic of Georgia

Volodymyr Tarabara, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering at Michigan State University, has been named a Fulbright Scholar and will conduct research on water quality control in the Republic of Georgia.

The highly coveted Fulbright grants are issued by the United States Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs to foster international academic exchange. It is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Each year, about 1,200 U.S. scholars study in 155 countries.

Tarabara will spend five months spread over 2014-2016 in Tbilisi -- the capital and largest city in the Republic of Georgia, which is located on the southeastern edge of Europe. The host institution is the Agricultural University of Georgia. The project is in cooperation with a team from the Eliava Institute of Bacteriophages, Microbiology and Virology.

His research will focus on the use of bacterial viruses, called bacteriophages, as human virus surrogates in water quality control applications.

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New technology turns manure into clean waterFormer MSU Ph.D. student Jim Wallace (l) and faculty member Steve Safferman are part of a team that has developed technology designed to turn manure into useable water. The system also can extract nutrients from the manure that can be used safely as fertilizer. Photo by G.L. Kohuth

Imagine something that can turn cow manure into clean water, extract nutrients from that water to serve as fertilizer and help solve the ever-present agricultural problem of manure management.

Technology that has its roots firmly planted at Michigan State University is under development and near commercialization that can do all of that. And then some.

Known as the McLanahan Nutrient Separation System, it takes an anaerobic digester – a contraption that takes waste, such as manure, and produces energy as a byproduct – and couples it with an ultrafiltration, air stripping and a reverse osmosis system.

The result, or at least one of the results, is water clean enough for livestock to drink, or, at the very least, to dispose of in an environmentally friendly manner.

“If you have 1,000 cows on your operation, they produce about 10 million gallons of manure a year,” said Steve Safferman, an associate professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering who is involved in the project. “About 90 percent of the manure is water but it contains large amounts of nutrients, carbon and pathogens that can have an environmental impact if not properly managed.”

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 Reliable, ready and accessible water

Spartans Without Borders give the gift of clean water in TanzaniaTippy taps built by Spartan engineers provide a fresh supply of water for school children to wash their hands at a school in Tanzania.

Spartan engineers are showing their Spartan Will by helping a town in Tanzania achieve a more reliable, readily accessible, and sufficient water supply for their community.

MSU’s chapter of Spartans Without Borders (SWB-MSU) made trips to Mabibo-Makuburi in the city of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in 2013 and 2014 to supervise the construction of a well water distribution system at the Mabibo Lutheran External Church and work toward the gift of clean water. 

James Rice served as the co-technical lead. He is from Laguna Niguel, Calif., and earned a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering in May 2014.

"It began in August 2013 when three members went on an assessment trip to Mabibo-Makuburi to meet with community members, take water quality samples, obtain measurements where the well would be drilled, and meet with a government well drilling agency," Rice said.

"Using the data collected from the assessment trip, design alternatives for a borehole well water distribution system were prepared to satisfy the needs, priorities, and constraints of the Mabibo-Makuburi community."

"A design alternative was then selected by the community and preparations were made to implement the borehole well system in August 2014."

Six members went back to the community in August 2014 to implement the borehole well system. Travel team members also presented lessons on proper health and sanitation to local children and adults.

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